Tuesday, 18 December 2018 15:11

2018 Publisher Picks

To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2018 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.


Nathan Hollier

Deep Time Dreaming by Billy GriffithsDeep Time Dreaming by Billy Griffiths (Black Inc.)Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia (Black Inc., reviewed in ABR, 4/18) relates the physical and intellectual challenges, adventures, innovations, and discoveries of modern Australian archaeology. In telling this story, commencing in the late 1950s, Billy Griffiths also discusses the social, political, and philosophical changes and issues that this archaeological activity has subsequently contributed to, or been affected by. Great knowledge, clear thinking, careful evaluation, and stylish exposition bring to light questions of existential significance: ‘To dream of deep time … propels us into a global perspective and allows us to see ourselves as a species. It also asks us to respect the deep past as a living heritage.’

Nathan Hollier is Director of Monash University Publishing.


Michael Heyward

‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past,’ said William Faulkner. He might have been speaking of Billy Griffiths’s Deep Time Dreaming, an utterly compelling mixture of memoir, biography, history, and science. Griffiths tells the tale of how, thanks to the work of some brilliant archaeologists and their guides and collaborators, we have been able to glimpse not just the ancient human history of this continent, but its living signature, too. Each time Griffiths’s story got older, it found new ways to begin. 

Michael Heyward is Publisher at Text Publishing.


Nikki Christer

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)The first thing to say about Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner (Text Publishing) – an unforgettable book – is how striking it is. It has the sort of cover that spawns a zillion copies with its powerful simplicity. Hats off to the publishers for that. The second thing to say about this book is that it’s absolutely brilliant. The writing is clear-eyed, filled with humanity, subtlety, and grace. Krasnostein loves her subject and this shines through on every page. I would have loved to have published it; we were one of the bidders but lost out to Text, which published it impeccably. I was cheering from the sidelines to see Sarah pick up a swag of awards.

Nikki Christer is Group Publishing Director at Penguin Random House.


Terri-ann White

Blakwork by Alison Whittaker (Magabala Books)Blakwork by Alison Whittaker (Magabala Books)Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork (Magabala Books), even in its more benign moments, is an intense thump to the body. This is because, through poetry and observation, Whittaker unmakes and remakes so much in her narratives by working the language hard. The interposing within a framework of ‘work’ categories yields erudition, worn lightly, alongside experimentation and irony and tenderness. I had to read slowly, so richly dense was it with history and family and people’s lives; encompassing how language assists in oppressing people and how it can also recover worlds of hope and self-determination. A delight, by a young writer of distinction.

Terri-ann White is Director of UWA Publishing.


Alice Grundy

Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (Scribe)Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (Scribe)In Beautiful Revolutionary (Scribe, 10/18), Laura Elizabeth Woollett creates unforgettable characters. Months later, I can still see and hear them vividly. Beautiful Revolutionary is the story of the cult that lead to the Jonestown Massacre, the largest intentional loss of American life in one event until 9/11. The research and writing are impeccable, yet still warm and immediate, especially her depiction of Evelyn, a young woman drawn into the inner circle of the People’s Temple.

Alice Grundy is an associate publisher at Brio Books.



Phillipa McGuinness

On Disruption by Katharine Murphy (Melbourne University Publishing)On Disruption by Katharine Murphy (Melbourne University Publishing)One tiny book, a long essay really, punched above its weight and has not left me since I read it. ‘Timely’ is a standby word for blurb writers, but Katharine Murphy’s On Disruption (Melbourne University Press) really is just that, an intervention for our ‘post-truth age’. Not all journalists are great writers, but Murphy is, and she’s not afraid to turn the searchlight on herself and her profession. Pressure from without is also pressure from within, and this book shows how high the stakes are. That she is able to serve as ‘a river guide in white water’ is to all our benefits.

Phillipa McGuinness is Publisher at NewSouth Publishing/UNSW Press.


Catherine Milne

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman (Text Publishing)The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman (Text Publishing)The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted (Text Publishing), by Robert Hillman, is an Australian gem: wise, tender, melancholy, gentle – simple yet undeniably powerful. The story of decent Tom Hope and haunted Hannah Babel rang as pure and true as a bell. While the novel doesn’t shy away from showing the darkness of history and the inexplicable cruelty of people, it also shows us that love can help us through – love and books. Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives (Hamish Hamilton, 3/18) is, in a way, its polar opposite: a bravura achievement, dazzling, complex, layered, thought-provoking and mind-stretchingly clever – but equally compelling.

Catherine Milne is Publisher and Head of Fiction at HarperCollins Publishers Australia.


Aviva Tuffield

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales (Hamish Hamilton)Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales (Hamish Hamilton)I’m choosing two books that affected me deeply – divergent in style and approach, but both challenging us to imaginatively consider the lives of others. Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork proves, yet again, that she is one of the sharpest minds around. This coruscating collection plays with form and style, throughout centring Indigenous voices and experiences, and decolonising language. It’s bold and unapologetic, slicing through the hypocrisies of settler colonialism. Leigh Sales’s Any Ordinary Day (Hamish Hamilton, 10/18) undid me repeatedly with its empathetic stories of how people cope when ‘the worst thing happens’. Sales turns the spotlight on her own personal life as well as her professional one, interrogating the role of journalists in reporting tragedy and trauma.

Aviva Tuffield is a publisher at the University of Queensland Press.


Meredith Curnow

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss (Black Inc.)Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss (Black Inc.)Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (Black Inc.), edited by Anita Heiss, is a revelation, and it shouldn’t be. Bringing together experiences from voices new and old, young and mature, this is a collection to return to, not only because we cannot change what we ignore, but also for inspiration. We See the Stars (Allen & Unwin), a début from Kate van Hooft, deftly explores my favourite trait, kindness, as a young boy attempts to broaden his engagement with the small, disturbing, and noisy world in which he lives. Tension builds and the reader is lead to an open ending, or is it?

Meredith Curnow is a publisher at Penguin Random House Australia.


Barry Scott

Blue Lake by David Sornig (Scribe)Blue Lake by David Sornig (Scribe)David Sornig’s Blue Lake: Finding Dudley Flats and the West Melbourne Swamp (Scribe), absorbed me on so many levels. Sornig brings a novelist’s eye to his acute portrait of Elsie and the other fringe dwellers living on the edge of Melbourne. During the Great Depression, such outcasts built humpies and scavenged from rubbish tips. Like Janet Frame in Owls Do Cry (1961), Sornig understands the treasures of the spirit to be found in the compromised wastelands of our cities. In fiction, Angela Meyer’s A Superior Spectre (Ventura) grappled beautifully with the dilemma of longevity versus soul.

Barry Scott is Publisher at Transit Lounge.


David Musgrave

I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)As a publisher, teacher, and writer, I have little time to read for pleasure, so I’m fairly choosy about what I read. Michael Farrell’s I Love Poetry (Giramondo) is one of the stronger books to have come out recently. Farrell’s last few books have shown a real maturation in his voice. Paradoxically enough, it is his more personal and less characteristically playful poems that mark this development in his work. I also enjoyed Maria Tumarkin’s collection of essays Axiomatic (Brow Books, 9/18) for their intensity, honesty, and the Eastern European sensibility from which they derive.

David Musgrave is Publisher at Puncher & Wattmann.


Mathilda Imlah

In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey (Hamish Hamilton)In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey (Hamish Hamilton)I seem to be taken with all things igneous this year. I devoured Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives: rich, strange, mesmerising. Startling, in fact, as Dovey always seems to be. I note now that it’s sitting on my shelf beside Anna Burns’s Milkman, Sally Rooney’s Normal People, and Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, all having a gentle conversation in the way they do. I also read Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist: A mind on fire (Hamish Hamilton, 10/18) in a single sitting and at arm’s length. The ability to bear such forensic witness must exert a terrific toll: it is a harrowing read and utterly riveting.

On a personal note, I think we all suffered a great loss in the poet and activist Candy Royalle, who died suddenly, and far, far too soon, in June 2018. Her first muscular and uncompromising collection, A trillion tiny awakenings, towards which she had been working for many years, was published posthumously by UWAP. Vale, Candy.

Mathilda Imlah is the Picador Publisher. 


Sam Cooney

The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Hachette)The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Hachette)The locally published book that most knocked me sideways this year was Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s The Lebs (Hachette, 3/18). We recognise the characters of this book – these Western Sydney boys and girls and men and women, these ‘lebs’ and ‘fobs’ – and feel as though we know them. Yet most of us don’t know them or their stories. Michael Mohammed Ahmad drags us inside the worlds of these characters. I just wish all realist fiction were as unapologetic in its approach.

Sam Cooney is Publisher at Brow Books.

Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 2018 Publisher Picks
  • Contents Category Highlights of the Year
  • Custom Highlight Text

    To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2018 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.

Thursday, 21 December 2017 11:11

2017 Publisher Picks

To complement our 2017 ‘Books of the Year’, we invited several senior publishers to nominate their favourite books – all published by other companies.

Madonna Duffy

The Museum of Modern LoveTwo Australian novels have stayed with me through 2017: Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love (Allen & Unwin, reviewed in ABR, 1/17) was brilliant in every way. Challenging and engrossing, it reminded me that it takes courage to live well. Rose is such a keen observer of human nature in all its tortured forms. It also featured Sandy Cull’s gorgeous design work on the cover, so anything within had to be worth reading. Kim Scott’s Taboo (Picador, 8/17) asks the questions that many of us are asking ourselves. How do we make a shared future out of a fractured past? He reminds us that the power of Indigenous storytelling transcends time, race, and politics. They were the first storytellers, and we still have so much to learn from them.

Madonna Duffy is Publishing Director at the University of Queensland Press.

Michael Heyward

Simon LeysPhilippe Paquet’s monumental biography of the sinologist Pierre Ryckmans is entitled Simon Leys: Navigator between worlds (La Trobe University Press/Black Inc.). Superbly translated by Julie Rose, this book explores an extraordinary life. Ryckmans was born in Belgium, where he trained in art history but wanted to become a painter. He first went to China when he was nineteen. Later, he became a scathing critic of Mao and Maoism, writing under the nom de plume Simon Leys, before landing up in Australia where he raised his family, and wrote his unclassifiable masterpiece The Death of Napoleon, along with the masterful essays that were collected in The Hall of Uselessness.

Michael Heyward is Publisher at Text Publishing.

Meredith Curnow

The Life to ComeMichelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin, 10/17) is a quietly brilliant piece of work that left me rather sad at the end, but happily so. The hopeful and abiding love of Bunty and Christabel will long stay with me. The intent of the novel is clear from Part I, The Fictive Self. We all tell ourselves stories and ignore or reinterpret what is too hard to digest. Confronting, cutting, moving, and funny in equal parts. Long may this storyteller continue to absorb fact into her fiction.

Meredith Curnow is Publisher – Knopf, Vintage, Penguin Random House Literary.


Phillipa McGuinness

Mirror SydneyI was hopeful that Dennis Glover’s The Last Man in Europe (Black Inc.) would be free of the ‘clunky philosophical dialogue that made the protagonists sound like Marxist gramophones’, a criticism Glover has Orwell direct at another writer. I hoped too that Glover’s prose might hold its own alongside one of the century’s greatest writers. It exceeded my hopes on both counts. I can’t read or publish enough about Sydney it seems. Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney (Giramondo, 1/18) was a joy. It made me want to set off to find the Wrigleys factory in Hornsby, such is its power to make the marginal and the lost seem much less so.

Phillipa McGuinness is Executive Publisher of NewSouth Publishing.

Mathilda Imlah

Terra NulliusFor me this year, Stuart Kells’s The Library: A catalogue of wonders (Text Publishing, 12/17) is an easy choice for any bibliophile. On a vivid tour of the world’s great libraries, both real and imagined, Kells is a magnificent guide to the abundant treasures he sets out. In fiction, Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (Hachette, 12/17) is a powerful and skilful novel – I could mention speculative fiction, but it transcends that tag. It offers a vision of Australia’s future and past whose twist, quite as intended, took me completely by surprise.

Mathilda Imlah is the Picador Publisher.


Barry Scott

The Book of DirtIncreasingly, international publishers are the the first to publish books by Australian writers. As the wealth of local talent grows, it is probably inevitable that some authors will bob up elsewhere. Peter Barry’s The Walk (New Internationalist), a delicious satire, tells the story of a charity worker who brings Mujtabaa, a young Ethiopian man, to London and has him walk from Heathrow to Trafalgar Square to raise funds for famine relief. The hilarious McDonald’s scene is worth the price of admission alone. I found Bram Presser’s The Book of Dirt (Text Publishing, 11/17) impossible to forget. Penetrating, soulful, and surprisingly welcoming, it reminded me of my own ancestors and how easy it is to sidestep the past.

Barry Scott is Publisher at Transit Lounge

Sign up to ABR's free monthly e-News bulletin for news, reviews, events, and giveaways

Rachel Bin Salleh

Common PeopleIt is unusual to read a short story and feel the kind of satisfaction that comes with finishing a great novel. I felt this about each one of Tony Birch’s stories in Common People (UQP, 9/17). In this collection, Birch reveals himself as a master of the short story. He draws you in from the first paragraph and leaves you both satisfied and with cause for reflection. The stories are surprising and diverse, and Birch’s sense of humanity pulls you in. I loved the grittiness, the dark humour, and quiet celebration of human resilience.

Rachel Bin Salleh is Publisher at Magabala Books.


Rod Morrison

From the WreckJane Rawson is one of our most gifted and unpredictable – and under-appreciated – writers. I really enjoyed her fourth novel, From the Wreck (Transit Lounge, 4/17), a densely poetic, imaginary tour de force that combines seemingly familiar scenes and characters – an historical shipwreck – with surreal and speculative leaps of fancy. Overseas, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner) by Jesmyn Ward is a spare and searing portrait of just a few of the countless faultlines at the heart of American society. A dysfunctional family drama and modern road novel in one, it is painful, shocking, and illuminating reading, but you dare not turn away.

Rod Morrison is Publishing Director at Brio Books.

Nikki Christer

City of CrowsThe one that got away! This year I devoured Chris Womersley’s rich and gothic City of Crows (Picador, 10/17). With each very different novel Womersley exposes the wanton sides of human nature, and looks for beauty. This dark, visceral book is a brilliant piece of historical fiction. Rural France and Paris, scenes familiar to us from centuries of fiction, are drawn here in many layers. I particularly enjoyed wallowing in the blood and magic of the underground rooms and clusters of trees where most writers do not linger. Charlotte’s quest to save herself and Nicolas stretched the imagination of this reader in the most enjoyable ways.

Nikki Christer is Group Publishing Director at Penguin Random House

Georgia Richter

Our man elsewhereTwo portraits of writers provided excellent reading this year. Thornton McCamish’s Our Man Elsewhere: In search of Alan Moorehead (Black Inc., 9/16), an ‘in the footsteps’ narrative, returns a legendary war correspondent to public view, revealing an author whose wit and self-deprecation make him an ideal companion on the discovery journey. Helen Garner’s writing has influenced my teaching and thinking about style like no other. In A Writing Life: Helen Garner and her work (Text, 5/17), Bernadette Brennan offered fresh perspectives with her thorough, immensely readable portrait of one of Australia’s finest authors.

Georgia Richter is Publisher at Fremantle Press.

Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 2017 Publisher Picks
  • Contents Category Literary Studies
  • Custom Highlight Text

    To complement our 2017 ‘Books of the Year’, we invited several senior publishers to nominate their favourite books – all published by other companies.